There is no shortage of what Egyptians would do to avoid the scorching sun. We resort to any method of staying in the shade, away from the temperature of satan’s liking. All methods are on the table, except the one 4000-year-old invention specifically designed to shield us from the sun: the umbrella.
You’d think the population of an African country whose summer lasts for around nine months would make the best use of the umbrella, right? Well, the answer is no, we don’t. So it’s about time that we try to change that, or at least understand it.
In our hypothesis, there are a couple of reasons. For one, there seems to be a common misconception that the only use for an umbrella is to shield us from the rain. For a country that has very few showers a year, there’s not really much use for that. Most people won’t buy an umbrella to use three times a year, and that’s not even an assumption; most people in Egypt don’t own an umbrella.
While a shield from the rain is definitely the primary use for umbrellas, that’s not only what it can be used for. Actually, its Arabic name, ‘shamsiya’, is derived directly from ‘shams’, the word for sun. The case is similar for the English word, too, as it’s derived from the Latin umbra, meaning ‘shaded’ or ‘shadow’.
Not surprisingly, one of the oldest archaeological traces of the umbrella goes back to Ancient Egypt, assumed to have been used by most of the population for practical rather than ornamental reasons. So, if our ancestors, who lived under the same sun, understood the importance of shade, isn’t it strange that we don’t?
Our second hypothesis is unfortunate, but most likely true: self-consciousness. People will naturally avoid anything they think will make them look and feel ridiculous or will draw any attention to them in the first place. Doing anything even slightly different in Egypt guarantees that. But that’s also a normal occurrence everywhere; if anyone starts doing something different, it catches our eye.
However, for something as practical as this, it’s worth trying, especially as shading your head from the sun isn’t just a means of comfort but a health benefit. Direct sunlight to the head is proven to impair both motor and cognitive performances, as well as causing skin damage. If we don’t want to hide in our homes and cars during the entire day in the summer, then a compromise must be reached!
Umbrellas shouldn’t be treated as the lesser evil either, and they can be highly fashionable, designer-labelled models with various colours and decorations!
Consider this article your starting point! Buy an umbrella, and enjoy a sunny walk in the shade.